Wednesday 9 November 2011

BlogalongaBond / The M To R
Of Awful Things In Moonraker

Of all the terrible things in the world for which Star Wars was responsible - George Lucas' constant tinkering, Jar Jar Binks, grown men dressing up as Jedi Knights - by far the most heinous was the blasting of James Bond into outer space. It wasn't entirely Star Wars' fault, obviously: it's mostly Cubby Broccoli's for listening to the cacophonous mooing that passes for public opinion. Space-based escapism was all the rage in the late 1970s, so what better way to cash in on the craze move the Bond franchise forwards than to wrap 007 in tin foil and fire him at the stars?

The trouble is, the general public have absolutely no idea what makes a good Bond film. They didn't even like On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the drooling cretins. And so Broccoli commissioned a script that was little more than Bond On Demand: a virtual remake of The Spy Who Loved Me (itself a virtual remake of You Only Live Twice) only in space instead of underwater, with incongruous references to other films for no apparent reason (The Magnificent Seven? Really?) and the transformation of a cold-blooded killer into a soft-hearted love machine because under-eights demanded it.
Promoting Moonraker, Broccoli wittered: "This isn't science fiction, this is science fact." Well, sorry Cubby, but this isn't science fact, this is science fucked. A man who falls out of a plane and lands on a circus is unlikely to survive without a scratch. The time between a space station being discovered by NASA and a platoon of fully trained Space Rangers arriving there to blow it up is unlikely to be six minutes. And a spy attempting to follow someone without being spotted is unlikely to succeed by hiding behind a glass vase. He's just going to appear slightly further away.
While Moonraker still isn't the worst Bond film so far (Lewis Gilbert's breezy direction keeps it from being as tediously leaden as Thunderball), it does have the dubious honour of having many of the worst things ever to appear in the franchise. To prove it, I was going to do the A to Z of awful things in Moonraker, but that would take so long it would be quicker to just watch the film again, so here instead is the, uh, M to R. That works, right?

M is for My God, what's Bond wearing?
While Roger Moore looks fairly sharp throughout most of Moonraker, he bookends the film with two of Bond's most alarming outfits: a blue blazer over a roll-neck sweater, the neck of which resembles a large, rolled-back foreskin - thereby making his head look like a massive, bewigged bell-end - and a yellow jumpsuit, the less said about which the better. What next, a clown outfit?

O is for Oh for God's sake

Presumably this is so Bond can identify his miniature spy camera amongst all the others cluttering up Drax's chateau.

O is for Onanism scene that explains plot hole
At the beginning of the film Bond is issued with a wrist-mounted dart-gun thingy, which saves his life early on and is probably one of Q's most useful inventions. Why he doesn't bother using it in any other life-threatening situation except to kill Drax right at the end, then, is a mystery. Perhaps he took it off so he could have a wank without firing an armour-piercing dart into his scrotum and forgot to put it back on again. There's a tragically missed opportunity for a "one off the wrist" gag somewhere there.

N is for Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud
Not awful as such, just worth pointing out.

R is for Rubbish secret agent
In keeping with his professional desire to remain incognito at all times, Bond blends in with Venice tourists by driving through St Mark's Square on a massive hovering gondola with red and white stripes on it. This scene made my DVD player cry.

A is for Apparently this belongs in a James Bond film
In actual fact it doesn't.

K is for Kill me now

The romance evoked by the slow motion run and the pile of fresh corpses littering the surrounding area is almost palpable.

E is for Er, why is that guy hiding in a coffin?
Why shoot 007 from a safe distance with a sniper's rifle when you can customise a coffin with an arsenal of knives, float down a canal, take out a gondolier first then wait a moment before having a go at Bond, thus giving him the chance to do you in first? Henchman fail #372.

R is for Really? REALLY?
animated gif how to

The thing is, Moonraker isn't a bad film, it's just a bad Bond film. Take 007 out of it and you've got a perfectly serviceable, fun seventies romp. Maybe I'm being too po-faced - God knows the franchise shouldn't take itself too seriously - but double-taking pigeons don't belong in a film series that includes Sean Connery shooting a dead man in the back just to be sure.

Fortunately, and as is usually the case, it's not a complete disaster...

The death of Corinne Dufour
Having agreed to a little Dufour-play with 007, Corinne's only future career path as a Bond girl lies in certain death on the orders of her boss, Sir Hugo Drax. In the middle of a film full of crass double entendres and risible sight gags, the scene in which she's chased through the forest by Drax's dogs is weirdly stylish and poignant. Jean Tournier's long-lens photography is stunning, with dappled sunlight and dreamy slow motion offsetting the violence with unexpected class, while John Barry's urgent, menacing cue is one of his career best.

The stuntmen
Despite being jarringly intercut with blatant rear-projection shots of Roger Moore pretending to be in trouble, two of Moonraker's stunt scenes remain breathtaking. The pre-title skyfall was not only done for real by aerial mentalists BJ Worth and Jake Lombard, but done 88 times over five weeks to get all the required footage, while Richard Graydon actually dangled over the edge of that cable car in Rio without any kind of safety attachment, which is both heart-stoppingly terrifying and certifiably insane.

The bit where Roger Moore acts
Coincidentally, I pulled the exact same face throughout most of Moonraker

Having worn himself out developing a bit of character for Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me, Rodge reverted to his usual, eyebrow-waggling self in Moonraker. In a careless lapse, however, Moore accidentally acted a little bit during the scene where he goes for a spin in Drax's centrifuge trainer. The faces he pulls while being subjected to thirteen Gs are amazing enough, but when he emerges from the machine, sweaty and barely alive, it's the most physically unsettled we've seen Bond for a long time. His refusal to let Holly help him gives us another all-too-brief glimpse through a hairline crack in his steely veneer.

And finally: No cock joke this month, sorry, unless you count this poster:
In zero gravity, everyone can see your erection.

BlogalongaBond will return with For Your Eyes Only


  1. The thing that gets me about the coffin is how they managed to drive the boat through Venice without knocking the coffin against a low bridge, *until* Bond has done for Knifeo Knifertino, at which point they immediately run out of headroom. Ruined an otherwise ... ahem ... perfectly plausible storyline.

  2. No love for "I think he's attempting re-entry?"

    The face Moore pulls when he's in the launch simulator has me in hysterics everytime

  3. Hilariously enough, I don't believe that Moore was.. um.. "acting during the centrifuge scenes. Apparently he was in genuine discomfort from the air they were blasting him in the face with. I guess something good did come out of Moonraker after all. ;)

  4. This is all hugely unfair. Taken as a kid's film, Moonraker succeeds admirably.

    And Michael Lonsdale as Drax is fabulous. "May I press you to a cucumber sandwich?" never sounded so sinister.

  5. Drax was like a 1970's version of Elon Musk.